Has a recurring problem with kidney stones? Send him to Hollywood! Lives in a tent and prone to exhibit flu-like symptoms when cooped up inside cold and dusty auditoriums? She’s on to the next round! Believes she can subsist for an entire day on a can of Red Bull, a piece of toast, and the occasional whiff of Jennifer Lopez’s Glow perfume? That was a trick question: Jennifer Lopez doesn’t wear Glow! Ha!
If you happened to miss Thursday night’s installment of American Idol, you’re probably wondering if I’m hopped up on cold medicine, or maybe got a little overzealous with the sauvignon blanc at dinnertime. But nope, I am of sound mind and carb-loaded chassis as I write this recap. The problem is, after enduring the second Hollywood Week episode of Season 11 — which contained not a single musical performance, but plenty of vomiting, weeping, and huffing from the 185 contestants (¡including Ashlee “Joy Hop” Altise!) who’d survived into the Group Rounds — I don’t have a frakin’ idea how to get this particular recap party started.
I guess we’ll take our cues from Maria von Trapp and start at the very beginning. We kick off with yet one more replay of Wednesday’s cliffhanger of Symone Black falling face-first off the Idol stage — it’s okay, Symone, we black out every time Randy speaks, too — which prompts her rival contestants to form a prayer circle while secretly thinking, “This #&@^% has the voice of a meadowlark, and now she’s got the most dramatic Hollywood Week footage of anybody in the competition!” Symone recovers enough to ask her dad, “So does this mean I get a yes?” Of course it does, Symone; that’s the standard consolation prize when the show’s producers cravenly exploit the health crisis of a minor on the altar of Nielsen ratings.
After Symone’s happy fate is revealed — and Symone’s father G***ge (Google Alert denied! Burn!) reveals how he doesn’t want to be a stage dad, but rather a famous mentor (ugh!) — it’s time for the rancor, anxiety, and tears to flow like wine at the bacchanalia: Contestants must sort themselves into groups of four or five — making sure there’s a mix of Day 1 and Day 2 people — and then choose and rehearse a number from a pre-set list of 20 songs. (This part is supposed to be exciting? I think? All of my sentences on the subject will end in a question mark perhaps?)
There’s a cop from St. Louis who’s convinced nobody likes cops, but maybe they just don’t like people shouting into microphones and refusing to even consider anything other than “Joy to the World” (Three Dog Night, not the Christmas carol) or “Stuck Like Glue.” (For a second, I think girlfriend is referencing Nikka Costa’s “Stuck to You,” which would have made up for everything. Seriously, click that link, minimize the window, and enjoy some funky retro-soul while you read the next few paragraphs.)
There’s also Tent Lady Amy Brumfield. “I feel like crap,” she says with sheer desperation, shortly before Ryan Seacrest refers to her as “Patient Zero.” Suddenly, I’m struck by the horrible idea that some super-intense 15-year-old is going to leap out of the wings and beat Amy over the head with a baseball bat — 28 Days Later-style — to stop the spread of the contagion. “I don’t want to get eliminated because I’m sick,” Amy says ominously. Relax, future Katie Stevenses and Thia Megias, it’s just the flu!
Next on deck are Heejun Han and Phillip Phillips — both of whom made my list of the Top 10 Auditions of Season 11 , but only one of whom may have passed a kidney stone in his hotel room — and they’re paired with a bossy guy in a cowboy hat whose name Heejun hasn’t even bothered to learn. Heejun probably has the right idea, since Knowitall McBootscoot is the kind of kid who boasts that he’s the only one in his group who knows anything about harmonies and chords, and that he has some grrrreat ideas for box-step and salsa choreography. “Now I have a very bad perspective toward cowboys,” says Heejun. “Even Dallas Cowboys. Freakin’ cowboys.” Speaking of which, whatever happened to Idol‘s Littlest Cowboy?
And while we’re on the subject of blasts from the show’s past, here comes Brielle Von Hugel — who sang “Grenade” with Pia Toscano during Season 10 Hollywood Week. Instead of celebrating the teenager’s focus and committment to excellence, the producers choose to use Brielle’s mom as a character witness: “She’s bossy. We have to keep our eye on her,” the woman says, snapping her gum. (Note to Mama Hugel: If Brielle makes it to the live rounds, I hope you don’t up the ante by holding up hand-made signs for somebody else’s daughter.)
Finally, there’s a group called The Bettys, made up of Weepy, Sleepy, Sassy, Worried and Cannon Fodder. They get plenty of screen time — and the episode ends with them about to take the stage — but I care more about the excess milk in my morning cereal than I do about how their performance turns out. Two members of the quintet stay up rehearsing till 5:11 a.m., and I can feel my blood beginning to boil: Don’t these kids study their Idol history? Most of it’s on Wikipedia, for heaven’s sake!
Ah, but let’s go back to Patient Zero. She’s feebly performing some choreographed dance moves, trying to fit in with the general population. “I’m not lettin’ the devil play with me!” she grins. But first, she’ll have to survive until morning. Tune in for the exciting conclusion next week at 9/8c on Fox!
What did you think of the second Hollywood Week episode of Season 11? Was I the only one who felt like it was a total waste of time? Did you miss the actual singing? And are you at least excited for next week’s group performances? Sound off in the comments!